No aimless wandering in this entry: institutions that invite applications for tenure-track assistant professorships and specify that they only want candidates with very recently minted Ph.Ds (2009, 2010) are behaving abominably. Yeah, you, Colorado State University and you, Harvard.
It’s long been known by academic job-searchers that there’s an unspoken expiration date on a new Ph.D, that if you haven’t landed a tenure-track post within six years or so of defending your dissertation, it will get increasingly difficult to do so as time goes on. That’s partly because the relative security of a tenure-track or even regular contract job, especially where there is support for research and a reasonable teaching load, allows a new professor to produce the research that will make later movement possible, whereas adjuncting at two, three, four institutions doesn’t lead much space or money for anything. But also there’s an insidious kind of prejudice that can enter into the conversation about a candidate: one of the people evaluating a dossier is going to say, sooner or later, “I wonder why this guy doesn’t have a regular job yet?” Often the person who says it is someone with zero awareness of the current situation in academia, zero empathy for the travails of job-seekers, and zero imagination about what candidates with all sorts of previous experience and histories might bring to the post. But all it takes is one person to plant the thought, and in a search where ten, twenty, thirty or more candidates might be strongly comparable in the assets they bring to the table, that might be all it takes to drop that person out of consideration.
At least when it’s a silent prejudice, it can be countered, deflected, or overriden. As explicit language in a job ad, it just ratifies the “let them eat cake” arrogance of tenure-track faculty towards the adjuncting masses. It’s particularly gross from a department that likely imagines itself to be producing strongly competitive scholars for the academic job market. CSU has fixed its ad, Harvard hasn’t (yet) but that either was ever written in the first place is likely a depressing sign of things to come–and I suspect that this is one case where faculty can’t blame managerialism, corporatization, administrators or any of the other favored scapegoats.